Kiev: The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have called for a "strict respect of engagements" pledged in a peace deal to end the Ukraine crisis, the French presidency said of the first four-way talks in more than two months.
Sources in Kiev said yesterday the conversation between Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko - the first since April 30 - lasted for more than two hours and focused on finally halting the 15-month separatist crisis in the former Soviet state.
The warring sides had struck a ceasefire deal in February but Poroshenko yesterday complained about pro-Russian insurgents' refusal to honour the five-month truce.
Poroshenko "expressed concern about the continuing escalation (of violence) in eastern Ukraine and called for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements," the Ukrainian president's website said in reference to a Belarussian capital where the peace deal was done.
"Petro Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine, unlike the other side, was abiding by the Minsk agreements."
A separate statement said Poroshenko had delivered a similar message to US Vice President Joe Biden in another phone call.
The Kremlin said Putin had in turn underscored the severity of the humanitarian crisis gripping the two separatist regions in industrial war zone.
Putin's office blamed the hardships in the heavily-Russified Lugansk and Donetsk provinces on the "virtual (economic) blockade" imposed by Kiev.
The Russian leader also repeated his call for Poroshenko to launch direct negotiations with the heads of the two self-declared republics - something the Westren-backed leader has refused to do.
The telephone exchange came a day after Ukraine's parliament took the first step toward granting temporary self-rule to pro-Russian rebels under a change to the constitution the West hopes can end a war that has already claimed more than 6,500 lives.
The idea of granting autonomous status to the rebels for the coming three years has struck a note of disquiet among many lawmakers and much of the Kiev media.
But it was inscribed in the Minsk deal and grudgingly accepted by Poroshenko - a former chocolate baron who won May 2014 presidential elections on a promise to stamp out the rebellion within a matter of days.
Kiev lawmakers on Thursday voted by a commanding 288-57 majority to ask Ukraine's constitutional court to rule whether such changes to the basic law were legal.